The incumbent BJP-led NDA government at the Centre expressed “surprise” over the apex court decision striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act. With the NJAC struck down, the appointments to the higher judiciary will be made by the collegium system which ended in April when the government had notified the new law. Though, the government back the independence of judiciary, it questioned the transparency of the old collegium system.
“We are surprised by the verdict of the Supreme Court,” Union Law minister Sadananda Gowda said adding that he would decide on the future course of action after consulting the Prime Minister, his senior Cabinet colleagues and legal experts.
“The will of the people can be represented through the Parliament, through the legislature only, it cannot be brought to the notice of the whole world by some other means,” Union Law minister said further.
Reacting to the judgement, Union Telecom Minister and Ravi Shankar Prasad said “While holding very dearly the principle of independence of judiciary, I regret to say that parliamentary sovereignty has received a setback today.”
Mr. Prasad, a senior advocate himself, said the government will come out with a structured response after going through the order in every detail.
“20 state assemblies had ratified it…the principal author of the 1993 Supreme Court judgement (which led to the collegium system) (late) Justice J S Verma had also suggested a serious rethink on the collegium system and so had Justice V R Krishna Iyer,” Union Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad added further.
The principal Opposition party, however, asserted that the verdict should not be viewed as a confrontation between Parliament and judiciary.
“Discretion to appoint judges must be based on objective and not subjective criteria. Transparency, accountability and responsibility of collegium system is must and has been under question,” Congress’ chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said in a cautions response.
“Whether system of appointment of judges to higher judiciary can be transparent, accountable and responsible in a fashion that is best for the growth of a healthy democracy while maintaining complete independence of the judiciary is the moot question to be addressed,” Mr. Surjewala added.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi too expressed similar sentiments after the landmark verdict.
“Appointments will continue to be made in an opaque system where all stakeholders will not have a voice. The collegium system is not found in the Constitution and according to me, the system is not appropriate,” Mr. Rohatgi said, though he ruled out option of seeking review in the matter.
On the other hand, welcoming the judgement, former Chief Justice of India Justice Altamas Kabir and ex-Supreme Court Judge Justice AK Ganguly expressed pride in the Indian judicial system, saying the decision restored independence of judiciary.
“I have always been against NJAC and I find it unconstitutional as it seeks to give the biggest litigants in this country a hand in the appointments of the judges who will judge them. Independence of judiciary is imperative if democracy is to survive,” Justice Altamas Kabir told the press.
(With inputs from the PTI)